There is a bizarre case in Minnesota where Levi Arneberg, 27, is accused of killing his roommates four emotional support ferrets with a BB gun. The case raises an issue for sentencing that could present a problem for the defense.
According to the court complaint, Maurice Guski, 57, called police to report that Arneberg threatened to harm his ferrets after an argument over Guski using too much of the shared space. Arneberg allegedly brandished a kitchen knife in his hand and said, “It would be bad if one of them were hurt. Get the out!”
When Guski later said that his ferrets were missing, police found “blood drops on the stairs and walls of the entryway.” They then found the dead ferrets in the adjacent alley and a witness said that Arneberg was seen walking through the alley. The witness said that Arneberg remarked that “a ferret smiled at him, so he shot it ten times.”
Police say that Arneberg confessed when they located him and said “Dude, I killed the ferrets, give me a break.” Arneberg is quoted as also saying that he killed them “cause they smell like shit” and that “the big one was hard to kill.” He allegedly added “I swear the thing was laughing and breathing, laughing and breathing and I just kept shooting it in the head.”
Putting aside a mental incompetence defense, the complaint leaves few options for his counsel.
That brings us to the sentencing issue. Arneberg is now charged on four misdemeanor animal cruelty counts, each of which carries a maximum penalty of a year behind bars. Ordinarily, multiple counts are allowed to run concurrently in sentencing. However, Arneberg has reportedly confessed to killing four ferrets. If the sentences ran concurrently, he could have killed 4 or 40 ferrets with the same result: one year in prison. If he is sentenced per ferret consecutively, he would be looking at a maximum of four years. While misdemeanors are generally sentenced to a year or less, that would bring the sentence up to a felony level sentence.
Here is the Minnesota provision 609.15 on multiple sentences:
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c), when separate sentences of imprisonment are imposed on a defendant for two or more crimes, whether charged in a single indictment or information or separately, or when a person who is under sentence of imprisonment in this state is being sentenced to imprisonment for another crime committed prior to or while subject to such former sentence, the court in the later sentences shall specify whether the sentences shall run concurrently or consecutively. If the court does not so specify, the sentences shall run concurrently.
(b) When a court imposes sentence for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense and specifies that the sentence shall run consecutively to any other sentence, the court may order the defendant to serve time in custody for the consecutive sentence in addition to any time in custody the defendant may be serving for any other offense, including probationary jail time or imprisonment for any felony offense.
(c) An inmate of a state prison who is convicted of committing an assault within the correctional facility is subject to the consecutive sentencing provisions of section 609.2232.